Spousal Support Attorney Medford – Joe Davis
A divorce will end a marriage, but it will not end the obligations that each spouse has to the other. In today’s culture there are far more marriages where both partners earn roughly the same amount of money and contribute more or less equally to the family household, but there are still many marriages where one spouse makes more than the other, so that one spouse is in a financially dependent position. When this is the situation, the spouse that made less money in the marriage is generally entitled to Spousal Support to help him or her establish a new household and achieve financial independence.
Spousal Support is the current term for what was once called “alimony.” While both spousal support and child support are determined by the court system and can both be awarded simultaneously, they are meant to address different needs. The Oregon court system has a complicated system of guidelines to calculate the precise amount of money to be paid for child support as well as how long the child support should be paid. There are no such precise guidelines to calculate spousal support awards. Instead, the amount is based on what the court deems is “just and equitable under the circumstance.” This means that spousal support awards can – and do – vary a great deal from state to state, county to county, and judge to judge.
There are three types of Spousal Support: Transitional Support, Maintenance Support, and Compensatory Support, and each has a different unwritten philosophical basis as well as definitive legal grounds for awarding a particular kind of support. It’s important to understand why and how Spousal Support is awarded from the legal standpoint, although each judge will have a different interpretation of these factors and every case is different and must be assessed. The determining factors used when deciding on the amount and duration of spousal support include:
• The work experience and earning capacity of both parties (probably the most important consideration)
• The length of the marriage (spousal support is not generally awarded in short marriages unless one spouse has substantial health issues)
• The age of both parties
• The health (both physical and mental) of both parties
• The contribution by one spouse to the education, training and earning power of the other spouse
• Whether either spouse needs training or education in order to become employable
• The standard of living the couple had during the marriage
• How much property the couple had and how the property division is handled
• The parenting plan the couple has in place if children are involved
• How much debt the couple has and how the responsibility for it is allocated
• The costs of health care
• Certain financial and/or tax considerations
Transitional Support is generally awarded for a certain amount of time and for one specific goal: to give the dependent spouse a way to support themselves after the marriage is over. This kind of spousal support is meant to help a dependent spouse either obtain the job skills, training and/or education necessary to become financially independent, or provide financial support for long enough to allow the dependent spouse to re-enter the job market and/or advance in a career. This kind of support is often awarded when a spouse has left their career to stay at home and care for a child or children.
Maintenance Support is the most common and traditional type of support, and is paid to the dependent spouse for living expenses. This kind of support is often awarded when the marriage has been long and the dependent spouse has limited options for becoming self-supporting due to age or health. Maintenance Support is also meant to ensure an equitable distribution of future earnings, and/or to address any general issues of “what is fair” in terms of the marriage’s longevity or when one spouse makes or has considerable financial assets or income. While most states now have some kind of limit on the duration of Maintenance Support, Oregon is one of the few states that may still award Spousal Maintenance for life. Sometimes this kind of support is awarded in a lump sum or by division of property, but often it is paid on an ongoing monthly basis.
Compensatory Support can sometimes be difficult to obtain, prove, or calculate. The purpose of Compensatory Support is meant to re-pay one spouse who has supported the other spouse while they were obtaining the necessary education or training to enter a certain field or advance their earning capacity. This kind of support is highly individualized and primarily depends on the circumstances in each individual case. The court will look at the amount and kind of support and how long it was provided, but it will also take into consideration the kind and amount of financial success the spouse was able to achieve as a result of their spouse’s support. This kind of support is often awarded when one spouse has worked to put the other spouse through medical or law school, but once the degree or career was attained, the couple divorced soon after.
Spousal Support can be subject to changing circumstances on an ongoing basis. An award of Spousal Support may be adjusted if either spouse retires, becomes employed, unemployed, or makes a career move up or down that affects their salary. It may be adjusted due to receiving another major source of income, like an inheritance. If there are health issues that impact either spouse financially, if one or the other spouse dies, or if the dependent spouse remarries or cohabitates it may be adjusted or even discontinued. While Child Support is fairly set and not generally subject to change, Spousal Support may be adjusted or changed fairly often, which means that a lawyer will need to be consulted each time a change in Spousal Support is proposed, as each change must be reviewed by the courts.
It’s important that you have a qualified divorce attorney that understands the intricacies and issues of all kinds of Spousal Support as well as what the prevailing changes in divorce and family law entail. Changes in divorce law regarding Supposal Support will affect a client both at the time of the divorce as well as after. The award of Spousal Support is the one area of a divorce proceeding that is most likely to change after the divorce is final, and sometimes it will change fairly often because the circumstances in people’s lives change as they create a new life for themselves after a divorce. As a family lawyer that specializes in all areas of Oregon divorce law, I make it a point to stay current on the changing aspects of Oregon divorce law as it happens, so that I can advise my clients on an ongoing basis.